I had coffee yesterday with a young man locked in a battle to the death with his startup. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise; it worried me. I’m sure I’ve been there a number of times myself during my years in business, and that’s precisely when I needed some advice, like the advice I offer today.
As you develop your startup take the time to define success, whether you explicitly state it in your business plan or not (and probably not, given what a plan is). What’s important to you? Is business the only thing, or is business a means to an end. Does having your own business mean you don’t have a family, or a vacation, or other things that are important to you?
Put some measurements of success somewhere so that you’ll be able to access them from time to time, as business grows, problems arise, and time goes on. Does having your own business mean you can coach the kids’ soccer team, and attend parent-teacher conferences? Does it mean a couple weeks skiing every winter?
I often talk about getting general agreements between partners and co-founders in writing. Usually people think that’s a matter of buy-sell agreements and dissolution of partnerships and such, but that’s not all. If you haven’t done this yet, do it. Define your success.
Sure, that definition might change at some point, lots of things change. At least you should have your definition of success available so you can review and mark the change. Reminders are good.
I like to talk about passion in startups. I do believe that your chances are much better if you work your startup around something you want to do. Better yet, work your startup around something you believe in. On that one, happily, it’s not only do as I say, it’s also do as I’ve done, because my startups have all been related to work I liked to do (business planning) and believed in (software).
Still, life is short. Your life is about life, not startups. Sure, we’ve all done the overnighters in crunch times, but don’t lose track of what’s really important. Business is what we do, not who we are. If you have a family, get home for dinner, and if you have to, you can work after dinner on your computer at home. Coach soccer. Work out.
Don’t let startup passion spoil the rest of your life.